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Finney county was created by an act of Legislature in 1883, and was named in honor of Lieutenant Governor Finney of Woodson county. Early in 1884 efforts to complete the organization of the county began. The law required that before a county could be organized there must be more than 1,500 inhabitants and more than 250 actual householders.

State of Kansas,
County of Shawnee:

John J. Munger, being first duly sworn, states that he was on the 16th day of Sept., 1884, duly appointed by the governor of Kansas as census taker for the county of Finney. That he thereupon qualified by taking an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of that office, and proceeded to take the census of said Finney county by ascertaining the number of bona fide inhabitants, together with their names and ages, also the number of actual householders residing in said county of Finney, as well as the number of acres of cultivated land therein, all of which is embraced in the foregoing schedule and return is true; that there are 1,500 and 69 (1,569) bona fide inhabitants in said Finney county; that there are three hundred and seventy-three (373) actual householders residing therein and that there are twenty-nine hundred and five (2,905) acres of cultivated land in said Finney county.

John J. Munger.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 1st day of October, 1884.

C. J. Brown,
Clerk of the Supreme Court,
State of Kansas.


The Governor's proclamation, organizing the county of Finney and the temporary location of the county seat:

PROCLAMATION

State of Kansas, Executive Department,
Topeka, Kansas, Oct. 1, 1884.

Whereas a memorial signed by two hundred and fifty householders, residents of Finney county, Kansas, and legal electors of the state of Kansas, whose signature to said memorial have been duly attested by the affidavits of these householders thereof, showing that said county had more than 1,500 inhabitants and that more than 250 of said inhabitants are actual householders and praying for the organization of said Finney county, said affiants alleging that they had reason to and did believe said memorial to be true,

And whereas John J. Munger, a bona fide resident of said Finney county, was duly appointed and commissioned as census taker and was duly qualified as such officer, and it appears from an actual enumeration by census returns, duly made, certified and sworn to by said census taker according to law, and there are 1,500 and 69 bona fide inhabitants in said county and that 373 of them are actual householders.

Now, therefore know ye that I, G. W. Glick, governor of the state of Kansas, by authority of law vested in me have appointed and commissioned H. M. Wheeler, A. B. Kramer and John Speer as county commissioners and H. E. Wentworth as county clerk for said county of Finney and do hereby designate and declare the town of Garden City to be the temporary county seat of said county.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the great seal of the state. Done at the city of Topeka, Kansas, the day and year first written above.

G. W. Glick, Governor


The boundaries of the county were defined as follows:

"Commencing at a point where the south line of township 30 crosses the east line of range 37, thence running east on said line of range 29, thence running north on said range line to the south line of township 20, thence running west to the east line of range 37, thence south to the place of beginning."

At the time of its organization Finney was the largest county in the state. It included the former unorganized counties of Sequoyah and Arapaho (now Haskell) and parts of Kearny, Grant, Lane, Gray and Meade, and was forty-eight miles east and west by sixty miles north and south. At that time the unorganized counties of Hamilton, Scott, Seward and Wichita were also attached to Finney county for judicial purposes. Those counties with Finney covered the entire area of Southwestern Kansas.

The first meeting of the board of county commissioners of Finney county was held in the Metropolitan Hotel in Garden City October 2, 1884, John Speer acting as chairman. At that meeting by virtue of authority vested in them by law, the said board issued a proclamation for an election of county and township officers and for the location of a county seat, to be held November 4, 1884.

At the first election on November 4, 1884, these were the results: On presidential electors, Republican 222 and Democratic 163 votes, total 385. The following county officers were elected: Representative, C. J. Jones; county clerk, A. H. Burtis; county treasurer, George H. DeWaters; sheriff, James R. Fulton; register of deeds, Captain John J. Munger; county attorney, W. R. Hopkins; probate judge, H. M. Wheeler; clerk of the district court, E. G. Bates; superintendent of public instruction, Albert Hurst; coroner, H. S. Lowrance; county commissioners, First District, David Fay; Second District, D. R. Menke; Third District, W. P. Loucks. The vote on county seat was, Garden City 264, Sherlock 61, Lakin 20, Pierceville 5, Deerfield I, Bullard's Ranch I.

Garden City was declared the permanent county seat of Finney county with judiciary power over all the unorganized counties of southwestern Kansas. This made it very convenient for the citizens of this region as the United States Land Office was already located here, since May, 1883, necessitating the homesteaders to come to this point. The Land Office was continued here until February, 1894, at which time it was consolidated with the Larned office and both were removed to Dodge City, Kansas.

At an early meeting of the board of county commissioners, it was agreed that they levy a tax on the property situated within the boundaries of the original Sequoyah county, to pay the indebtedness contracted by said Sequoyah county as an organized township attached to Ford county for judicial purposes. A motion was also made that all steps necessary be taken to secure books belonging to old Sequoyah township, now a part of Finney county. The salary of the Probate Judge was fixed at $150 per annum, and that of the County Attorney, County Treasurer and County Clerk at $400 per annum.

In June, 1885, petitions signed by citizens of Wichita, Seward, Scott and Hamilton counties, attached to Finney for judicial purposes, were presented to the board of commissioners, requesting that they be organized as municipal townships. On motion it was ordered that the county of Hamilton be organized as a municipal township and Syracuse was named as the place of transacting public business. Scott county was also ordered organized and Scott Center designated as the place of transacting public business. Seward was ordered organized, with Sunset City as the place of transacting public business. And Wichita was ordered organized with Leoti named as the place of transacting public business. Other voting precincts were established in each township, and an election was called by the sheriff of Finney county to be held on the 3oth day of June, 1885. These counties remained municipal townships of Finney county until 1887.

In 1885 the two southeast corner townships were taken off Finney and added to Meade county.

The county line question was made a direct issue in the election of November 6, 1885. C. J. Jones, representing those opposed to changing the county lines, was elected. As soon as the legislature convened, an immense lobby from various quarters made its appearance to assist the county "divisionists" members in cutting up of counties in order to make more county seats. The ablest speakers and best parliamentarians on the floor of the house as well as the speaker of the house, were all advocates of the bill to re-establish the old county lines. In addition to these, all the clerks and employees of the House, even down to the doorkeepers and a great many of the shrewdest lobbyists in the state formed the opposition that Mr. Jones had to contend with. He considered it a base betrayal of the confidence of his constituents to sit idly by and see the county lines changed, so fought alone.

But by and by reinforcements commenced to drop in to assist Mr. Jones. W. R. Hopkins, Mr. House and Mr. Cook came from Finney county, and others from Hamilton. For three long weeks the battle raged fiercely and not a move was made by the friends of the bill but was checkmated by Mr. Jones and his adjutants. At times Mr. Jones would go a little further than discretion demanded, but yet all had to admire his courage. Finally the bill was made a special order for February 12th. Then there was mounting in hot haste and couriers were sent flying hither and thither to summon aid for the final charge. The friends of the bill counted on 85 votes and they believed that Mr. Jones and his friends would be crushed under the avalanche that was sure to come. The hour for the final struggle at length arrived and the friends of the bill moved bravely to the assault, and for a time it looked as if the enemies of the bill would be utterly routed, but the "gentleman" from Finney leaped to the bench and fought nobly. The fight raged on, the victory now seeming to favor this side and now that, but after two hours the victory rested with Mr. Jones and his friends. The results were hailed with shouts of applause, and cigars were distributed freely. It was one of the most stubborn fights that ever took place in a legislative body.

Ed Lauk received the following telegram at Garden City Friday night, February 12th, from the Hon. C. J. Jones:

"The bill was killed in the house two to one. Thank God, and the House and the State of Kansas.
"C. J. Jones"

The next year H. P. Myton was elected as Representative and the county line fight was renewed in the legislature of 1887. Finney county was cut down to the original lines of old Sequoyah county, and Gray, Haskell and Kearny were organized as separate counties.

In 1892 the Supreme Court decided that Garfield county was illegally organized, it having less than 432 square miles as required by law. In 1893 it was annexed to Finney county. Thus, Finney county as it has stood since that time is twenty-four miles from east to west and thirty-six miles from north to south, and with the addition of Garfield township, which is eighteen by twenty- four miles, has an area of 1,296 square miles.

The population of old Sequoyah county in 1880 was 568. Six years later the Finney county census for the year 1886 showed 14,662 people. In 1890, the census report was only 3,350, and in 1900 it was still less, being 3,214. Since 1900 each decade shows a gradual gain in population and the census of 1930 found 11,006 living in the county.

Finney county is divided into seven townships, Garden City, Pierceville, Pleasant Valley, Ivanhoe, Terry, and Sherlock named for Thos. Sherlock.

The prevailing climate is pleasant without extremes. The weather records do not show any fundamental change in climate in the half century since settlement began in this region. There is no more rainfall, no less wind, and it is neither hotter nor colder, on the average, than it was fifty years ago. There has been a change, but it is not of climate. It is one of surface conditions. The hot winds which used to sweep over the prairie with such devastating power have been conquered by the breaking up of the prairie, causing more of the rainfall to go into the soil, and by irrigation of crops. The planting of thousands of acres of alfalfa and other cultivated crops and the planting of many trees, break and cool the surface winds. The average rainfall for the 18-year period from 1908 to 1925 inclusive was 18.23 inches, and 76 per cent occurred during the growing season, from April I to October 1.

The most fatal storm in the history of Finney county was the blizzard of 1886. During that storm of snow and zero weather, more than fifty people and cattle by the tens of thousands were frozen to death in Western Kansas. The pioneers have never forgotten that storm and the suffering it brought, and many have written their personal experience to be preserved in history.

Below is a letter written by John Speer, of Sherlock, January 12, 1886, to "The Topeka Commonwealth":

"Sherlock, January 12, 1886. We have had the most terrible storm I have ever witnessed. Perhaps my own experience will give a fair idea of its destructive character. The last of December was a beautiful day, clear, bright and warm, and New Year's Day was quite comfortable; but about eight o'clock the wind shifted to the northwest and struck all this region furiously, accompanied with snow which fairly darkened the whole atmosphere, the snow being very fine. The temperature was exceedingly cold, but I had no means of ascertaining the degrees. It became so dark that objects could be seen only at a very short distance. At my own place we have a very warm, dry dugout barn, in which we shelter the horses; but the range cattle dropped down on us, and, climbing upon the barn roof in their famished state, crushed it in, and the horses narrowly escaped destruction. We then got them under the shelter of the dwelling house as a partial protection. This storm commenced on the night of January I, and by Tuesday had so subsided as to make travel quite reasonable, and Wednesday cleared off, a beautiful day; but about eight o'clock that night the wind almost instantly shifted from the south to the northwest, and thenceforward for about thirty-six hours such a storm howled over this region as the oldest inhabitant, or any other man, never witnessed. Prominent objects could not be seen ten feet distant.

"We did our best for the protection of the horses by placing the plow team of my brother on the south side of the house, which is "L" shape, and the best possible protection from the northwest wind. Another horse we left under the protection of the partial roof of the demolished dugout barn, and the donkey was tied on the south side of a sod structure. By morning, no human could stem the fury of the storm. The horse had almost perished, and their lives could only be saved by taking them into the house. The donkey was alive, but died before the storm abated. One horse was ten feet under a snow drift, into which I excavated a hole much like bricklayers call a "manhole" and through that reached the animal, beating back and tramping the snow until I made a space about four by eight feet, and there fed and watered him for three days until he died. As soon as I could get out I found my nearest neighbor, Mr. Stillwagon, was digging the dead animals out of a barn, having lost four horses and nearly his whole herd of cattle had gone to the winds. Mr. Tracy, four miles off, lost a span of mules. Nearly all of Captain Ballinger's cattle were lost. Mr. McKeever said of 180 head he had found less than seventy alive. A negro on Captain Ballinger's ranch is reported badly frozen; two men are reported frozen to death near Syracuse, and others are reported frozen and as having perished in every direction.

"Frequently snowdrifts are six feet in depth. The drifts are so compact that teams can travel over them, and it is where the snow is not drifted deep that it is most difficult to get through. In many places the range cattle cross the railroad fences on the snow and wander along the track, and many are dead and dying. A gentlemen told me that within two miles west of Sherlock he counted seventy head of dead cattle along the outside of the railroad fence, and another told me he was sure there were 400 within a space of twenty acres, dead under the banks of the Arkansas.

"I think at this writing (Tuesday noon) no trains have gone west since the last storm, though one train of two passenger coaches and two cabooses has passed east-probably from Coolidge, notwithstanding the almost super-human energy of the officers of the Santa Fe company. At the earliest possible moment additional gangs of hands were at work clearing the tracks. The snow plow was of little use, owing to the compact character of the drifts. On Thursday I counted seventy-five hands with shovels who had been organized at Garden City, and had progressed west about twelve miles. Their feet were wrapped with gunny sacks and burlap, and they were bravely stemming the storm. The snow was cast out in large blocks, some digging and some throwing it out with their hands. I hear there is danger of a coal famine, but there is great confidence that all that is possible will be done by the railroad managers. Today is moderate, the sky clear and the sun bright.

"I can scarcely illustrate the severity of the storm better than by telling you that I counted a dozen antelope within twenty rods of my house, and yesterday three came into my dooryard, within fifteen feet of my front door. When antelope get so benumbed by cold and starvation as to almost invade the houses, the imagination will pretty accurately convey to all acquainted with their wild shy habits the degree of suffering which all flesh is subject to in this exposure.

"This is a poor letter, but it is the best I can do in a snow bank."

In reminiscence of that storm, I. L. Diesem wrote recently: "No one knew how much snow fell during that period of thirty-four hours, because it drifted in great piles. We lived on the farm at that time, in Diesem's addition to Garden City, and a drift formed in the yard between the house and stable 15 feet deep.

"Before 9 p.m. on the evening of the storm cattle drifted in from the Upton Ranch at Scott City, and were at our stacks of feed, tearing it down and eating it. We got the dogs out and drove them away, but a light was put in the window for us to see to return by. Without the light to guide us back to the house, we would have drifted with the storm. We saved our stock by the feed and care we gave them. When the storm subsided, we had two buckets of coal left. We would have burned the fence posts around the yard if it had become necessary.

"I. R. Holmes was mayor of Garden City at that time. He had committees out in every direction with blankets and food, as soon as the storm broke."

The pioneer constructed but a makeshift upon his claim. A shack of cheapest material, poorly put together, housed many of the homesteaders and much of the suffering from the storm Was due to this fact. Those living in dugouts were secure and comfortable, provided they had sufficient food and fuel.

One of the saddest cases resulting from the storm in Finney county, was that of George Beck. He was living on a homestead east of Garden City. During the day when he was away from his shanty, some one stole a part of his roof and all his coal. When he reached home at dark, he discovered his loss but decided to stay the night, and that evening the storm came. He was in this shanty until the second day when the storm broke, and he made his way on frozen feet to a neighbor two miles away. The following account, telling of his condition, was taken from a Garden City newspaper:

"George Beck, who has been lying at the Ohio House for three weeks with frozen feet, was compelled to have them amputated. After deliberate consultation, Drs. Lowrance, Niles and Sabine decided upon this course to save his life. The right foot was taken off just above the ankle, and the left a little below the knee. He was put under the influence of ether and stood the operation well. Since which he has been getting along as well as could be expected, but the prospect of recovery is only moderately encouraging.

"The poor man was overcome with grief when told that he would have to lose his legs. Having lost one hand, and now to lose both legs was more than he could bear, and he gave vent to his feelings by sorrowful weeping. He is a poor man and has a wife and two children in Peoria, Illinois."

Mr. Beck recovered and in June, the next summer, a fund of $100 was raised among the people of Garden City for the purpose of starting him in business. A small building was erected and he was placed there in charge of a fruit stand. This gave him a chance to support himself and family. Until this time he had been kept by the city and county since he had been frozen.

In March, 1886, after the blizzard, C. J. (Buffalo) Jones, in his itinerary, says:

"As I drove over the prairies from Kansas into Texas I saw thousands upon thousands of carcasses of domestic cattle which had drifted before the chilling, freezing `norther'. Every one of them had died with his tail to the blizzard, never having stopped except at its last breath, then fell dead in its tracks. When I reached the habitat of the buffalo, not one of their carcasses was visible except those which had been slain by the hunters. Every animal I came across was as nimble and wiry as a fox. I commenced to ponder upon the contrast between the white man's domestic cattle and those of the red man's cattle (buffalo)."

Various blizzards have taken their toll during the winters since 1886, but it is claimed by those who have lived in this region, that the one which occurred here March 26, 1931, was the worst since 1886. It was on the same order, but did not last so long and it was not as cold. Many birds and rabbits were killed, and it has been estimated that fifty per cent of the cattle in Finney county were lost. Bruce Josserand says in writing of the storm:

"Temperatures were zero and below and brought intense suffering to the live stock. Stray cattle rounded into the stock yards today by 0. E. Josserand and Elmer Williams had apparently drifted for many miles. All of them were frozen, bare of hair from the hocks to the body, between their hind and front legs. They were bloody and lacerated. One or two had their hind legs frozen stiff to the hocks."

COURT HOUSES OF FINNEY COUNTY



The first meeting of the board of commissioners of Finney county was held in the Metropolitan Hotel October 2, 1884, in Garden City. John Speer acting as chairman. Meetings were held there regularly until January I, 1885, when a small frame building was rented for court-house purposes. It was located in block 37 on the east side of Main street. The county officers furnished their own rooms, but were allowed 5.00 per month for rent, fuel and lights. The Dickerson theatre is built on the site of the first court house.

During the summer of 1885 there-was much talk of building a court house. At a meeting of the board of commissioners August 3, 1885, the following rooms were offered for court-house purposes: John Stevens made offer of rooms to be used as a court house at a rental of $420 for one year, or three. J. V. Carter offered rooms at $20 per month, for one year or three. C. J. Jones made offer of four rooms in his stone building, and he also offered to build a court house. His proposition to build a court house was accepted, and reads as follows:

"To the Honorable Board of County Commissioners, Greetings:

"For the purpose of security and safe keeping of our public records for the county of Finney, state of Kansas, I hereby make the following proposition to your honorable board, to-wit:

"I will build a stone building to be completed on or before October 25, 1885, on block A, Jones addition to Garden City, 40x40 feet, of good stone walls not less than eighteen inches in thickness, thirteen feet ceiling, iron or tin roof, with four rooms, two vaults which are to be fire proof. The two south rooms to be separated by folding doors, so as to be used for a court room if desired. Said building to be completed in a good substantial workman like manner, as per diagram herewith attached and marked exhibit A. All of said building to be used as county buildings for a period of two years without cost or compensation to anyone except myself.

"Signed, C. J. Jones.

"P.S.-The third year's rent will not exceed twenty dollars per month. If the Judge of the District Court and the honorable board prefer, will furnish a suitable hall in my stone building for the purpose of holding court, free of charge for the same term as stipulated above.

"C. J. Jones."

The site was the block on the corner of Eighth and St. John, commonly known as "Court House Square". Mr. Jones gave bond of $5,000 to have the building completed as specified, and the commissioners signed an agreement to keep the records in said building for a period of two years, from November 14, 1885. Work began on the new court house at once.

The corner stone of the court house and the new three-story hotel now known as the Buffalo block, between Grant avenue and Laurel street on Main street, were laid September 10, 1885, in the presence of a multitude of people. Mr. Jones secured reduced rates, and the early morning train from the east brought in two special coaches full to overflowing. One coach came from Topeka, the other from Wichita and Wellington. There was also a large turnout of the people of Finney and surrounding counties.

After the train arrived from the west, the Garden City cornet band marched up the street to the new hotel, followed by people in buggies, on foot, and on horseback. Every vehicle in town was in use. Col. D. A. Mims mounted the walls, which were just being started, as master of ceremonies. He introduced Elder A. C. McKeever, who addressed the people for a few minutes, giving a brief historical sketch of Garden City from its infancy up to that time, and a prospective view of the great future before us. After that, loud cries for "Jones" brought C. J. to the front. Mr. Jones disclaimed all the honor of the present glory of Garden City, and said without the aid of his enterprising neighbors, he could have done nothing toward the developing of this grand city of the plains.

The cavity of the corner stone was then filled with various articles including a copy of the city papers, report of the state board of agriculture, 1883-1884, Kansas Horticultural report, 1884, the circular advertising the event, the banner which C. J. Jones carried at the Chicago convention, cards of all who handed them in, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars donated by the crowd. There was perhaps as much as $25 in cash in small mites placed in the two stones. The masons then placed the stone in position. Rev. MeKeever moved that the hotel be christened "The Buffalo House" in honor of the familiar title of its builder. The motion carried with a whoop, and the ceremonies wound up with three rousing cheers for C. J. Jones.

The crowd advanced to the court house. There, speeches were made by Hon. John Speer, A. J. Abbott, A. J. Landis of Sterling, and I. R. Holmes. Time and space forbids our giving a synopsis of any of the speeches, but they all contained words of wisdom and encouragement. Mr. Landis was the gentleman who started the irrigation canals here, and one remark he made deserves a place here because of the emphatic truth it contained. He said that he had always told his friends, and believed yet that the time would come when Western Kansas would be the most valuable portion of the state.

The cavity of the court house stone was filled similarly to the former one and then the sale of lots began. (Public auction of lots in Jones' Addition to Garden City.) In the vicinity of the court house lots sold from $175 to $200. The aggregate of sales was $24,000. The sale proceeded until four o'clock, when Mr. Jones invited all to board his two coaches at the depot and take a free ride to Hartland and return. The coaches were filled, and the sales there amounted to $7,000, making a total for the day of $31,000.

The proceeds from this lot sale went to build the new stone court house. Terms of sale, one-fourth cash, balance on siX, twelve and eighteen months' time, at 10% interest.

The court house, when completed, had four rooms below and upstairs was two office rooms and a large courtroom. The whole was fitted up in the best manner. The total cost of the building was about $6,000. Two iron cells were ordered placed in the county jail in an upper room in the court house February 25, 1886, at a cost of $3,464. These were the first in the county. The Jones court house was used until February, 1902. It was necessary during most of that time to use a courtroom outside of the building on account of room.

In the summer of 1901 the county decided by its commissioners, E. L. Hall, J. V. Killion and G. L. Holmes, to secure better quarters so they could all be in the same building and have better vaults for fire protection for records. The Jones court house was abandoned, except as a jail for which purpose it was used many years.

"Garden City, Kansas, July 3, 1901.

"Whereas the county of Finney is owner of special warranty deed from George W. Finnup, donated for the purpose of use by Finney county, of said real estate and building thereon, to-wit: Lot 12, block 36, original town of Garden City, and whereas Finney county has no permanent court house or county building other than the jail building, suitable for needs of said county; Finney county has accepted the donation of said George Finnup and it is deemed by said board of county commissioners to be to the best interests of the people of the county, and a saving of expense." Commissioners Journal A.

They purchased from George W. Warden lot 11, and the building thereon for $900. Also the four remaining lots south of the building were purchased at a low price and made into a park.

C. A. Schneider was the county clerk. He planned with ability the arrangement of the remodeling the court house. It had five large brick vaults and a good heating plant built in the rear, and at that time a heating plant was a luxury. The court house was 50x100 feet, two stories high, built out of stone. Fred Pyle, the leading contractor at that time, secured the job of remodeling the building for $4,303, and did the work in good shape. The county had less than $10,000 invested in the court house and eight lots. This court house was used from February, 1902, until April, 1929, over twenty-seven years.

A movement for a new court house began in 1928. W. G. Hopkins, who was county clerk at that time, and the county commissioners, R. J. Ackley, J. W. King and W. L. Thomas, deserve much credit for the building, which now stands as the "pride of Finney county" on the original court house site in the C. J. (Buffalo) Jones Park.

Petitions were circulated by members of the American Legion, and the names of fifty-one per cent of the voters were secured as favoring a new building, only five or six in the county expressed themselves as being opposed. An election was held on location, and it was voted back to the Jones Park by a large majority.

The corner stone was laid November 29, 1928, under the direction of Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the state of Kansas. The first number on the program was a quartet, composed of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Maltbie, Mrs. C. A. Carter and L. W. Cooley. This was followed by a prayer by Rev. H. 0. Judd. The box was then deposited in the stone and a list of the contents of the box read. It contained a list of the members of the Tyrian lodge 246, a list of officers of the state Grand Lodge, the names of the county commissioners, and the history of the county since its organization written by George W. Finnup, a picture of the old jail, a list of the school children of Garden City, a list of the members of the band, a copy of the Garden City Herald, The Telegram and Opportunity, The Western Kansas Magazine. Judge H. E. Walters of Syracuse delivered the address of the day.



PROCLAMATION

State of Kansas, Executive Department,
Topeka, Kansas, Oct. 1, 1884.


Whereas a memorial signed by two hundred and fifty householders, residents of Finney county, Kansas, and legal electors of the state of Kansas, whose signature to said memorial have been duly attested by the affidavits of these householders thereof, showing that said county had more than 1,500 inhabitants and that more than 250 of said inhabitants are actual householders and praying for the organization of said Finney county, said affiants alleging that they had reason to and did believe said memorial to be true,

And whereas John J. Munger, a bona fide resident of said Finney county, was duly appointed and commissioned as census taker and was duly qualified as such officer, and it appears from an actual enumeration by census returns, duly made, certified and sworn to by said census taker according to law, and there are 1,500 and 69 bona fide inhabitants in said county and that 373 of them are actual householders.

Now, therefore know ye that I, G. W. Glick, governor of the state of Kansas, by authority of law vested in me have appointed and commissioned H. M. Wheeler, A. B. Kramer and John Speer as county commissioners and H. E. Wentworth as county clerk for said county of Finney and do hereby designate and declare the town of Garden City to be the temporary county seat of said county.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the great seal of the state. Done at the city of Topeka, Kansas, the day and year first written above.

G. W. Glick, Governor


The boundaries of the county were defined as follows:

"Commencing at a point where the south line of township 30 crosses the east line of range 37, thence running east on said line of range 29, thence running north on said range line to the south line of township 20, thence running west to the east line of range 37, thence south to the place of beginning."

At the time of its organization Finney was the largest county in the state. It included the former unorganized counties of Sequoyah and Arapaho (now Haskell) and parts of Kearny, Grant, Lane, Gray and Meade, and was forty-eight miles east and west by sixty miles north and south. At that time the unorganized counties of Hamilton, Scott, Seward and Wichita were also attached to Finney county for judicial purposes. Those counties with Finney covered the entire area of Southwestern Kansas.

The first meeting of the board of county commissioners of Finney county was held in the Metropolitan Hotel in Garden City October 2, 1884, John Speer acting as chairman. At that meeting by virtue of authority vested in them by law, the said board issued a proclamation for an election of county and township officers and for the location of a county seat, to be held November 4, 1884.

At the first election on November 4, 1884, these were the results: On presidential electors, Republican 222 and Democratic 163 votes, total 385. The following county officers were elected: Representative, C. J. Jones; county clerk, A. H. Burtis; county treasurer, George H. DeWaters; sheriff, James R. Fulton; register of deeds, Captain John J. Munger; county attorney, W. R. Hopkins; probate judge, H. M. Wheeler; clerk of the district court, E. G. Bates; superintendent of public instruction, Albert Hurst; coroner, H. S. Lowrance; county commissioners, First District, David Fay; Second District, D. R. Menke; Third District, W. P. Loucks. The vote on county seat was, Garden City 264, Sherlock 61, Lakin 20, Pierceville 5, Deerfield I, Bullard's Ranch I.

Garden City was declared the permanent county seat of Finney county with judiciary power over all the unorganized counties of southwestern Kansas. This made it very convenient for the citizens of this region as the United States Land Office was already located here, since May, 1883, necessitating the homesteaders to come to this point. The Land Office was continued here until February, 1894, at which time it was consolidated with the Larned office and both were removed to Dodge City, Kansas.

At an early meeting of the board of county commissioners, it was agreed that they levy a tax on the property situated within the boundaries of the original Sequoyah county, to pay the indebtedness contracted by said Sequoyah county as an organized township attached to Ford county for judicial purposes. A motion was also made that all steps necessary be taken to secure books belonging to old Sequoyah township, now a part of Finney county. The salary of the Probate Judge was fixed at $150 per annum, and that of the County Attorney, County Treasurer and County Clerk at $400 per annum.

In June, 1885, petitions signed by citizens of Wichita, Seward, Scott and Hamilton counties, attached to Finney for judicial purposes, were presented to the board of commissioners, requesting that they be organized as municipal townships. On motion it was ordered that the county of Hamilton be organized as a municipal township and Syracuse was named as the place of transacting public business. Scott county was also ordered organized and Scott Center designated as the place of transacting public business. Seward was ordered organized, with Sunset City as the place of transacting public business. And Wichita was ordered organized with Leoti named as the place of transacting public business. Other voting precincts were established in each township, and an election was called by the sheriff of Finney county to be held on the 3oth day of June, 1885. These counties remained municipal townships of Finney county until 1887.

In 1885 the two southeast corner townships were taken off Finney and added to Meade county.

The county line question was made a direct issue in the election of November 6, 1885. C. J. Jones, representing those opposed to changing the county lines, was elected. As soon as the legislature convened, an immense lobby from various quarters made its appearance to assist the county "divisionists" members in cutting up of counties in order to make more county seats. The ablest speakers and best parliamentarians on the floor of the house as well as the speaker of the house, were all advocates of the bill to re-establish the old county lines. In addition to these, all the clerks and employees of the House, even down to the doorkeepers and a great many of the shrewdest lobbyists in the state formed the opposition that Mr. Jones had to contend with. He considered it a base betrayal of the confidence of his constituents to sit idly by and see the county lines changed, so fought alone.

But by and by reinforcements commenced to drop in to assist Mr. Jones. W. R. Hopkins, Mr. House and Mr. Cook came from Finney county, and others from Hamilton. For three long weeks the battle raged fiercely and not a move was made by the friends of the bill but was checkmated by Mr. Jones and his adjutants. At times Mr. Jones would go a little further than discretion demanded, but yet all had to admire his courage. Finally the bill was made a special order for February 12th. Then there was mounting in hot haste and couriers were sent flying hither and thither to summon aid for the final charge. The friends of the bill counted on 85 votes and they believed that Mr. Jones and his friends would be crushed under the avalanche that was sure to come. The hour for the final struggle at length arrived and the friends of the bill moved bravely to the assault, and for a time it looked as if the enemies of the bill would be utterly routed, but the "gentleman" from Finney leaped to the bench and fought nobly. The fight raged on, the victory now seeming to favor this side and now that, but after two hours the victory rested with Mr. Jones and his friends. The results were hailed with shouts of applause, and cigars were distributed freely. It was one of the most stubborn fights that ever took place in a legislative body.

Ed Lauk received the following telegram at Garden City Friday night, February 12th, from the Hon. C. J. Jones:

"The bill was killed in the house two to one. Thank God, and the House and the State of Kansas.
"C. J. Jones"

The next year H. P. Myton was elected as Representative and the county line fight was renewed in the legislature of 1887. Finney county was cut down to the original lines of old Sequoyah county, and Gray, Haskell and Kearny were organized as separate counties.

In 1892 the Supreme Court decided that Garfield county was illegally organized, it having less than 432 square miles as required by law. In 1893 it was annexed to Finney county. Thus, Finney county as it has stood since that time is twenty-four miles from east to west and thirty-six miles from north to south, and with the addition of Garfield township, which is eighteen by twenty- four miles, has an area of 1,296 square miles.

The population of old Sequoyah county in 1880 was 568. Six years later the Finney county census for the year 1886 showed 14,662 people. In 1890, the census report was only 3,350, and in 1900 it was still less, being 3,214. Since 1900 each decade shows a gradual gain in population and the census of 1930 found 11,006 living in the county.

Finney county is divided into seven townships, Garden City, Pierceville, Pleasant Valley, Ivanhoe, Terry, and Sherlock named for Thos. Sherlock.

The prevailing climate is pleasant without extremes. The weather records do not show any fundamental change in climate in the half century since settlement began in this region. There is no more rainfall, no less wind, and it is neither hotter nor colder, on the average, than it was fifty years ago. There has been a change, but it is not of climate. It is one of surface conditions. The hot winds which used to sweep over the prairie with such devastating power have been conquered by the breaking up of the prairie, causing more of the rainfall to go into the soil, and by irrigation of crops. The planting of thousands of acres of alfalfa and other cultivated crops and the planting of many trees, break and cool the surface winds. The average rainfall for the 18-year period from 1908 to 1925 inclusive was 18.23 inches, and 76 per cent occurred during the growing season, from April I to October 1.

The most fatal storm in the history of Finney county was the blizzard of 1886. During that storm of snow and zero weather, more than fifty people and cattle by the tens of thousands were frozen to death in Western Kansas. The pioneers have never forgotten that storm and the suffering it brought, and many have written their personal experience to be preserved in history.

Below is a letter written by John Speer, of Sherlock, January 12, 1886, to "The Topeka Commonwealth":

"Sherlock, January 12, 1886. We have had the most terrible storm I have ever witnessed. Perhaps my own experience will give a fair idea of its destructive character. The last of December was a beautiful day, clear, bright and warm, and New Year's Day was quite comfortable; but about eight o'clock the wind shifted to the northwest and struck all this region furiously, accompanied with snow which fairly darkened the whole atmosphere, the snow being very fine. The temperature was exceedingly cold, but I had no means of ascertaining the degrees. It became so dark that objects could be seen only at a very short distance. At my own place we have a very warm, dry dugout barn, in which we shelter the horses; but the range cattle dropped down on us, and, climbing upon the barn roof in their famished state, crushed it in, and the horses narrowly escaped destruction. We then got them under the shelter of the dwelling house as a partial protection. This storm commenced on the night of January I, and by Tuesday had so subsided as to make travel quite reasonable, and Wednesday cleared off, a beautiful day; but about eight o'clock that night the wind almost instantly shifted from the south to the northwest, and thenceforward for about thirty-six hours such a storm howled over this region as the oldest inhabitant, or any other man, never witnessed. Prominent objects could not be seen ten feet distant.

"We did our best for the protection of the horses by placing the plow team of my brother on the south side of the house, which is "L" shape, and the best possible protection from the northwest wind. Another horse we left under the protection of the partial roof of the demolished dugout barn, and the donkey was tied on the south side of a sod structure. By morning, no human could stem the fury of the storm. The horse had almost perished, and their lives could only be saved by taking them into the house. The donkey was alive, but died before the storm abated. One horse was ten feet under a snow drift, into which I excavated a hole much like bricklayers call a "manhole" and through that reached the animal, beating back and tramping the snow until I made a space about four by eight feet, and there fed and watered him for three days until he died. As soon as I could get out I found my nearest neighbor, Mr. Stillwagon, was digging the dead animals out of a barn, having lost four horses and nearly his whole herd of cattle had gone to the winds. Mr. Tracy, four miles off, lost a span of mules. Nearly all of Captain Ballinger's cattle were lost. Mr. McKeever said of 180 head he had found less than seventy alive. A negro on Captain Ballinger's ranch is reported badly frozen; two men are reported frozen to death near Syracuse, and others are reported frozen and as having perished in every direction.

"Frequently snowdrifts are six feet in depth. The drifts are so compact that teams can travel over them, and it is where the snow is not drifted deep that it is most difficult to get through. In many places the range cattle cross the railroad fences on the snow and wander along the track, and many are dead and dying. A gentlemen told me that within two miles west of Sherlock he counted seventy head of dead cattle along the outside of the railroad fence, and another told me he was sure there were 400 within a space of twenty acres, dead under the banks of the Arkansas.

"I think at this writing (Tuesday noon) no trains have gone west since the last storm, though one train of two passenger coaches and two cabooses has passed east-probably from Coolidge, notwithstanding the almost super-human energy of the officers of the Santa Fe company. At the earliest possible moment additional gangs of hands were at work clearing the tracks. The snow plow was of little use, owing to the compact character of the drifts. On Thursday I counted seventy-five hands with shovels who had been organized at Garden City, and had progressed west about twelve miles. Their feet were wrapped with gunny sacks and burlap, and they were bravely stemming the storm. The snow was cast out in large blocks, some digging and some throwing it out with their hands. I hear there is danger of a coal famine, but there is great confidence that all that is possible will be done by the railroad managers. Today is moderate, the sky clear and the sun bright.

"I can scarcely illustrate the severity of the storm better than by telling you that I counted a dozen antelope within twenty rods of my house, and yesterday three came into my dooryard, within fifteen feet of my front door. When antelope get so benumbed by cold and starvation as to almost invade the houses, the imagination will pretty accurately convey to all acquainted with their wild shy habits the degree of suffering which all flesh is subject to in this exposure.

"This is a poor letter, but it is the best I can do in a snow bank."

In reminiscence of that storm, I. L. Diesem wrote recently: "No one knew how much snow fell during that period of thirty-four hours, because it drifted in great piles. We lived on the farm at that time, in Diesem's addition to Garden City, and a drift formed in the yard between the house and stable 15 feet deep.

"Before 9 p.m. on the evening of the storm cattle drifted in from the Upton Ranch at Scott City, and were at our stacks of feed, tearing it down and eating it. We got the dogs out and drove them away, but a light was put in the window for us to see to return by. Without the light to guide us back to the house, we would have drifted with the storm. We saved our stock by the feed and care we gave them. When the storm subsided, we had two buckets of coal left. We would have burned the fence posts around the yard if it had become necessary.

"I. R. Holmes was mayor of Garden City at that time. He had committees out in every direction with blankets and food, as soon as the storm broke."

The pioneer constructed but a makeshift upon his claim. A shack of cheapest material, poorly put together, housed many of the homesteaders and much of the suffering from the storm Was due to this fact. Those living in dugouts were secure and comfortable, provided they had sufficient food and fuel.

One of the saddest cases resulting from the storm in Finney county, was that of George Beck. He was living on a homestead east of Garden City. During the day when he was away from his shanty, some one stole a part of his roof and all his coal. When he reached home at dark, he discovered his loss but decided to stay the night, and that evening the storm came. He was in this shanty until the second day when the storm broke, and he made his way on frozen feet to a neighbor two miles away. The following account, telling of his condition, was taken from a Garden City newspaper:

"George Beck, who has been lying at the Ohio House for three weeks with frozen feet, was compelled to have them amputated. After deliberate consultation, Drs. Lowrance, Niles and Sabine decided upon this course to save his life. The right foot was taken off just above the ankle, and the left a little below the knee. He was put under the influence of ether and stood the operation well. Since which he has been getting along as well as could be expected, but the prospect of recovery is only moderately encouraging.

"The poor man was overcome with grief when told that he would have to lose his legs. Having lost one hand, and now to lose both legs was more than he could bear, and he gave vent to his feelings by sorrowful weeping. He is a poor man and has a wife and two children in Peoria, Illinois."

Mr. Beck recovered and in June, the next summer, a fund of $100 was raised among the people of Garden City for the purpose of starting him in business. A small building was erected and he was placed there in charge of a fruit stand. This gave him a chance to support himself and family. Until this time he had been kept by the city and county since he had been frozen.

In March, 1886, after the blizzard, C. J. (Buffalo) Jones, in his itinerary, says:

"As I drove over the prairies from Kansas into Texas I saw thousands upon thousands of carcasses of domestic cattle which had drifted before the chilling, freezing `norther'. Every one of them had died with his tail to the blizzard, never having stopped except at its last breath, then fell dead in its tracks. When I reached the habitat of the buffalo, not one of their carcasses was visible except those which had been slain by the hunters. Every animal I came across was as nimble and wiry as a fox. I commenced to ponder upon the contrast between the white man's domestic cattle and those of the red man's cattle (buffalo)."

Various blizzards have taken their toll during the winters since 1886, but it is claimed by those who have lived in this region, that the one which occurred here March 26, 1931, was the worst since 1886. It was on the same order, but did not last so long and it was not as cold. Many birds and rabbits were killed, and it has been estimated that fifty per cent of the cattle in Finney county were lost. Bruce Josserand says in writing of the storm:

"Temperatures were zero and below and brought intense suffering to the live stock. Stray cattle rounded into the stock yards today by 0. E. Josserand and Elmer Williams had apparently drifted for many miles. All of them were frozen, bare of hair from the hocks to the body, between their hind and front legs. They were bloody and lacerated. One or two had their hind legs frozen stiff to the hocks."

COURT HOUSES OF FINNEY COUNTY



The first meeting of the board of commissioners of Finney county was held in the Metropolitan Hotel October 2, 1884, in Garden City. John Speer acting as chairman. Meetings were held there regularly until January I, 1885, when a small frame building was rented for court-house purposes. It was located in block 37 on the east side of Main street. The county officers furnished their own rooms, but were allowed 5.00 per month for rent, fuel and lights. The Dickerson theatre is built on the site of the first court house.

During the summer of 1885 there-was much talk of building a court house. At a meeting of the board of commissioners August 3, 1885, the following rooms were offered for court-house purposes: John Stevens made offer of rooms to be used as a court house at a rental of $420 for one year, or three. J. V. Carter offered rooms at $20 per month, for one year or three. C. J. Jones made offer of four rooms in his stone building, and he also offered to build a court house. His proposition to build a court house was accepted, and reads as follows:

"To the Honorable Board of County Commissioners, Greetings:

"For the purpose of security and safe keeping of our public records for the county of Finney, state of Kansas, I hereby make the following proposition to your honorable board, to-wit:

"I will build a stone building to be completed on or before October 25, 1885, on block A, Jones addition to Garden City, 40x40 feet, of good stone walls not less than eighteen inches in thickness, thirteen feet ceiling, iron or tin roof, with four rooms, two vaults which are to be fire proof. The two south rooms to be separated by folding doors, so as to be used for a court room if desired. Said building to be completed in a good substantial workman like manner, as per diagram herewith attached and marked exhibit A. All of said building to be used as county buildings for a period of two years without cost or compensation to anyone except myself.

"Signed, C. J. Jones.

"P.S.-The third year's rent will not exceed twenty dollars per month. If the Judge of the District Court and the honorable board prefer, will furnish a suitable hall in my stone building for the purpose of holding court, free of charge for the same term as stipulated above.

"C. J. Jones."


The site was the block on the corner of Eighth and St. John, commonly known as "Court House Square". Mr. Jones gave bond of $5,000 to have the building completed as specified, and the commissioners signed an agreement to keep the records in said building for a period of two years, from November 14, 1885. Work began on the new court house at once.

The corner stone of the court house and the new three-story hotel now known as the Buffalo block, between Grant avenue and Laurel street on Main street, were laid September 10, 1885, in the presence of a multitude of people. Mr. Jones secured reduced rates, and the early morning train from the east brought in two special coaches full to overflowing. One coach came from Topeka, the other from Wichita and Wellington. There was also a large turnout of the people of Finney and surrounding counties.

After the train arrived from the west, the Garden City cornet band marched up the street to the new hotel, followed by people in buggies, on foot, and on horseback. Every vehicle in town was in use. Col. D. A. Mims mounted the walls, which were just being started, as master of ceremonies. He introduced Elder A. C. McKeever, who addressed the people for a few minutes, giving a brief historical sketch of Garden City from its infancy up to that time, and a prospective view of the great future before us. After that, loud cries for "Jones" brought C. J. to the front. Mr. Jones disclaimed all the honor of the present glory of Garden City, and said without the aid of his enterprising neighbors, he could have done nothing toward the developing of this grand city of the plains.

The cavity of the corner stone was then filled with various articles including a copy of the city papers, report of the state board of agriculture, 1883-1884, Kansas Horticultural report, 1884, the circular advertising the event, the banner which C. J. Jones carried at the Chicago convention, cards of all who handed them in, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars donated by the crowd. There was perhaps as much as $25 in cash in small mites placed in the two stones. The masons then placed the stone in position. Rev. MeKeever moved that the hotel be christened "The Buffalo House" in honor of the familiar title of its builder. The motion carried with a whoop, and the ceremonies wound up with three rousing cheers for C. J. Jones.

The crowd advanced to the court house. There, speeches were made by Hon. John Speer, A. J. Abbott, A. J. Landis of Sterling, and I. R. Holmes. Time and space forbids our giving a synopsis of any of the speeches, but they all contained words of wisdom and encouragement. Mr. Landis was the gentleman who started the irrigation canals here, and one remark he made deserves a place here because of the emphatic truth it contained. He said that he had always told his friends, and believed yet that the time would come when Western Kansas would be the most valuable portion of the state.

The cavity of the court house stone was filled similarly to the former one and then the sale of lots began. (Public auction of lots in Jones' Addition to Garden City.) In the vicinity of the court house lots sold from $175 to $200. The aggregate of sales was $24,000. The sale proceeded until four o'clock, when Mr. Jones invited all to board his two coaches at the depot and take a free ride to Hartland and return. The coaches were filled, and the sales there amounted to $7,000, making a total for the day of $31,000.

The proceeds from this lot sale went to build the new stone court house. Terms of sale, one-fourth cash, balance on siX, twelve and eighteen months' time, at 10% interest.

The court house, when completed, had four rooms below and upstairs was two office rooms and a large courtroom. The whole was fitted up in the best manner. The total cost of the building was about $6,000. Two iron cells were ordered placed in the county jail in an upper room in the court house February 25, 1886, at a cost of $3,464. These were the first in the county. The Jones court house was used until February, 1902. It was necessary during most of that time to use a courtroom outside of the building on account of room.

In the summer of 1901 the county decided by its commissioners, E. L. Hall, J. V. Killion and G. L. Holmes, to secure better quarters so they could all be in the same building and have better vaults for fire protection for records. The Jones court house was abandoned, except as a jail for which purpose it was used many years.

"Garden City, Kansas, July 3, 1901.

"Whereas the county of Finney is owner of special warranty deed from George W. Finnup, donated for the purpose of use by Finney county, of said real estate and building thereon, to-wit: Lot 12, block 36, original town of Garden City, and whereas Finney county has no permanent court house or county building other than the jail building, suitable for needs of said county; Finney county has accepted the donation of said George Finnup and it is deemed by said board of county commissioners to be to the best interests of the people of the county, and a saving of expense." Commissioners Journal A.


They purchased from George W. Warden lot 11, and the building thereon for $900. Also the four remaining lots south of the building were purchased at a low price and made into a park.

C. A. Schneider was the county clerk. He planned with ability the arrangement of the remodeling the court house. It had five large brick vaults and a good heating plant built in the rear, and at that time a heating plant was a luxury. The court house was 50x100 feet, two stories high, built out of stone. Fred Pyle, the leading contractor at that time, secured the job of remodeling the building for $4,303, and did the work in good shape. The county had less than $10,000 invested in the court house and eight lots. This court house was used from February, 1902, until April, 1929, over twenty-seven years.

A movement for a new court house began in 1928. W. G. Hopkins, who was county clerk at that time, and the county commissioners, R. J. Ackley, J. W. King and W. L. Thomas, deserve much credit for the building, which now stands as the "pride of Finney county" on the original court house site in the C. J. (Buffalo) Jones Park.

Petitions were circulated by members of the American Legion, and the names of fifty-one per cent of the voters were secured as favoring a new building, only five or six in the county expressed themselves as being opposed. An election was held on location, and it was voted back to the Jones Park by a large majority.

The corner stone was laid November 29, 1928, under the direction of Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the state of Kansas. The first number on the program was a quartet, composed of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Maltbie, Mrs. C. A. Carter and L. W. Cooley. This was followed by a prayer by Rev. H. 0. Judd. The box was then deposited in the stone and a list of the contents of the box read. It contained a list of the members of the Tyrian lodge 246, a list of officers of the state Grand Lodge, the names of the county commissioners, and the history of the county since its organization written by George W. Finnup, a picture of the old jail, a list of the school children of Garden City, a list of the members of the band, a copy of the Garden City Herald, The Telegram and Opportunity, The Western Kansas Magazine. Judge H. E. Walters of Syracuse delivered the address of the day.

Continue

Note: Text taken from "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard, which can be ordered through the Finney County Historical Museum.

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